How disciplined Conservative MPs are in responding to two issues coming up in the next few weeks will tell us a lot about how determined they really are to return to government. First, there’s the question of Parliamentarians pay. With Gordon Brown taking a tough-line, the Tories are obliged to do the same or open themselves up to a politically damaging line of attack. Iain Martin reports
that the leadership has made the vote for a below inflation raise a three line whip and if a sizable number of MPs rebel then it will be a major embarrassment. Remember that it was the issue of MPs pay that gave Tony Blair one of his most devastating sound bites against John Major: “I lead my party, you follow yours.”
Then, there’s the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty—known to you and me as the revised EU constitution. As Fraser writes in this week’s magazine, Brown thinks that by allowing a large amount of Parliamentary time he can tease out Tory differences on the issue and tempt the press into returning to their default ‘Tories split on Europe’ mode. If Euro-sceptic Tory MPs can resist the temptation to make trouble during this debate, then it will be a sign that the party has recovered the self-discipline that it needs if its to return to office.